Russia presses Lance Bass for space fee. The shuttle operators threaten to boot the 'N Sync cosmonaut-wannabe for having missed the first payment on his $20 million ticket

Think of the space shuttle as a really fast bus. You can’t ride the bus without paying first. Now, the Russian space agency is saying the same to Lance Bass, telling the ‘N Sync singer that, unless he pays the $20 million fare up front, he won’t get to ride the shuttle to the International Space Station this fall, as he’d planned.

Bass had already signed a preliminary contract and begun training for the trip, which is being funded by Destiny Productions, who plan to turn his space odyssey into a reality mini-series called ”Celebrity Mission: Lance Bass.” But Rosaviakosmos, the Russian space agency, has shown reluctance over the last few months to confirm Bass’ reservation on the shuttle’s lone available seat, alongside two professional cosmonauts. The agency said Wednesday that it could still boot Bass because his first installment on the ticket price is already overdue. ”There are a number of deadlines for the installments to be paid, but the first part has already been delayed,” Rosaviakosmos spokesman Sergei Gorbunov told Reuters. ”Theoretically, we can already dissolve the contract.”

Gorbunov said Bass has been granted a short extension. ”His backers have sent us a letter asking us to set back the deadline to August 9,” Gorbunov said. ”If they do not pay up on the 9th, I don’t know what will happen. Maybe we will follow their wishes again, and wait again. But we cannot wait forever.” After all the Russians are short of rubles, and they have rocket fuel bills to pay.

Variety reported Thursday that the 23-year-old singer still expects to be launched into orbit on Oct. 28. Destiny producer David Krieff told the paper that Bass called him on Wednesday from the training facility in Star City, Russia, saying he’d just been fitted for his space suit. Krieff told Variety that sponsors are coming aboard for Bass’ trip — literally, in some cases, with their logos sewn onto his space suit or CGI’d into the footage. Such advertisers as Procter & Gamble and Radio Shack have already ponied up for the telecast, which will be edited into seven half-hour episodes and one hourlong broadcast from space. Bass will even sing aboard the spacecraft. Of course, in space, no one can hear your fans scream.